Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was fastest on a wet Interlagos track to take the pole position for Formula One’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
Vettel, who has already clinched his fourth straight F1 title, had a lap of 1 minute, 26.479 seconds on Saturday, more than half a second ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
The result leaves the German driver in good position to try to equal Michael Schumacher’s 13 victories in a year and match the record of nine consecutive wins by Alberto Ascari in the 1952 and ’53 seasons.
Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished third in 1:27.539.
Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber – who is leaving Formula One after Sunday’s race – will start fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Heavy rain in Sao Paulo forced racing’s governing body FIA to delay the final round of qualifying by 40 minutes after conditions were deemed unsafe because of the `”volume of water on the track”.’
It rained during all three practice sessions in Sao Paulo, but never as hard as it did in qualifying. Nearly all drivers went out immediately after the track opened to try to set a time before weather conditions deteriorated.
Just before the end of the second round of qualifying, McLaren’s Sergio Perez crashed hard into a retaining wall after losing the back end of his car over a curb and spinning across the track. The Mexican driver was uninjured.
Webber’s last race
McLaren drivers, with a last chance for a podium finish, didn’t make it past the second round – Jenson Button was 15th and Perez was 14th.
Webber had been fastest in the final practice on Saturday, but Rosberg led both sessions on Friday, also on a wet track. Still at stake at the Brazilian GP is second place in the constructors’ championship.
With 43 points up for grabs at Interlagos, Mercedes holds a 15-point lead over Ferrari and a 33-point advantage over Lotus. Red Bull easily clinched the title in advance.
It will be the last race before F1 adopts new engine rules that are expected to revamp the series next year.
Teams will have to switching from the current 2.4-litre V8 engines to a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged unit, a move that will demand significant alterations in the design of cars and make predictions nearly impossible.
The Brazilian GP also marks the last race before several driver changes at some of F1’s top teams.
World champion Kimi Raikkonen of Finland is leaving Lotus to replace Brazilian Felipe Massa at Ferrari. Massa in turn is taking over the seat of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado at Williams, and McLaren is replacing Perez with rookie Kevin Magnussen of Denmark.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, from Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso, will fill Webber’s seat.
Maldonado, who may replace Raikkonen at Lotus, didn’t make it past the first round of qualifying and will start only 17th.